Friday, 30 October 2009

TOP OF THE CLASS POPS


I saw this in the paper yesterday and although I’m glad that someone other than me is banging this particular drum it’s a shame that Lynsey had to lower the tone a little – and I use my metaphors VERY carefully, I’ll have you know – and turn the piece into yet another grumble about Class, fourteen years after Jarvis put that non-argument to bed (if only he could drag himself out of his own self-made bed and start making decent music again, eh?). The charts full of poshos and BRITites? Forgive me for missing something peculiarly obvious here but I look at the current chart and at number one by a whomping great margin (nearly 293K copies/downloads sold) is a working-class lass from Newcastle. Can’t say I think much of it, or about it – although the title track of 3 Words is an unexpected, winding wonder, even if I suspect the song was taken straight off the BEPs’ spare shelf and I might have preferred Emma Bunton or Mel C to sing it with Will.i.am – but Cowell or no Cowell (and actually it was Louis Walsh, but hey ho) this isn’t exactly the Bullingdon Club Hit Parade. Don’t see any reference to quadrangles, dormitories or gimlet eyes in Calvin or Tinchy’s story either. Ah, generalisations, don’t they make complex arguments so simple?

As I’ve said I don’t know how many times, the formula is simple; reinstate TOTP at a time when everyone will be guaranteed to watch it (and yes, I agree with Lynsey here quite fervently, if they have to shift an episode or seven of EastEnders to do so then fine – who’s watching it now anyway?) and refrain from all efforts to make the programme “cool” or “relevant”; the kids are lost to the online world and the only way you’ll get them back is by going for the huge X-Factor Event button and pushing it; something, as in days of olde, that families watched together and could argue over – call that music, boy or girl, &c. Have the show do precisely what it was intended to do in the first place; reflect what is selling, get the artists in and encourage them to make a show of it. And the presenters – don’t get call centre drones who are only allowed to wear Cool Black and talk in Method Acting whispers (i.e. you can’t hear them), get personalities, get Moyles, Westwood, anyone, to go on there and be gloriously daft and naff. Make it Family Light Entertainment and marvel at any subversion that sneaks through – isn’t that why we of a certain age all remember it so well anyway? Watching Later with J Holland is like attending school assembly. The populist alternative is needed. Otherwise Cowellism will keep dominating the charts because what’s there to compete with him?

But where I have to diverge pretty wildly from Lynsey is when she starts prattling on about most of today’s Top 40 being guff compared with the exciting charts of 20 years ago. Again, let me remind you of some inconvenient facts – and if you’re quick you can hear it online – but the charts of October 1989 were fucking terrible, Jive Bunny taking out a mortgage at number one, blandness everywhere; nobody with any sense took any notice of the charts then. These days things are going a wee bit downhill from the epic beauty of earlier 2009 – but again most of that is ascribable to the Cowellite effect – but if you asked me to choose between the Top 40 of now and that of 1989 then it’s a complete no-brainer, just as I would never swap today for 1978 again if you paid me. As usual, the writer is really lamenting being 34 and tied down by the shit of an accumulated life rather than being fourteen, carefree, all fields round here &c. And if one more person cites bleeding “Starman” – a hit three years before our Lynsey was born – then I’m going to have to go all Pigmeat Markham on their coccyx. Argue for TOTP’s reinstatement by all means, but quit pretending that things were better in anybody’s old day. Otherwise we get TOTP2 with Steve Wright and the same old clips you've seen a billion times before to keep Mr Compliance happy = graffitied aesthetic mausoleum.

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